What is a weed, anyway? Sometimes weed is just a word used to describe plants in unwanted places.
But weeds are members of the plant kingdom. Some, like dandelions and plantain, are medicinal herbs. Others help maintain the natural balance of pests and nutrients in the garden.
It’s not necessary, or advisable, to eliminate plants merely because you didn’t plant them, so try tolerating a few, as long as they don’t take over your garden. Weeds can be controlled by not allowing them to go to seed. Remove the weeds by the roots using a weeding tool that reaches below the surface of the soil and you soon will have a garden bed with very little new weed growth.
One of the best reasons to garden organically is to protect the natural benefits provided by some bugs, worms, and other garden creatures. Nature survives as a sustainable system of checks and balances, which means that each pest has its own predator. If we haven’t killed some players in the cycle using artificial means such as pesticides or herbicides, then a few bugs or weeds could contribute to a healthier garden. If you spray your plants, you’ll kill the caterpillars that turn to butterflies in a few weeks time, the ladybugs that eat aphids, the tachinid flies that feed on cutworms, and the spiders that keep other bugs under control.
If you’re having a problem with bugs eating more than their fair share of your plants, natural pest control includes Integrated Pest Management, which involves visually inspecting plants periodically and picking pests off leaves and stems when necessary. You can wash bugs off plants with a mild solution of dish soap and water or create an herbal pesticide spray by steeping cayenne pepper in water to repel bugs but not kill them.
|Be sure to incorporate garden goodies into your dinner menu whenever possible, serving each delicacy as soon as possible after picking to enjoy the greatest flavors and nutrients.
The benefits of organic gardening go far beyond providing good, healthy fare for your family. Working with the soil is a wonderful way to help children connect with the earth and teach them to respect nature and the cycle of life. Learning where our food comes from and how we can nurture living plants to produce a lush bounty of delicious nourishment provides lessons of sustainability for children. The lessons will enrich the children’s experiences and enhance their understandings of the healthy patterns throughout their lives.
Instead of misconceptions based on the unreal world of television, instant gratification, and the unrealistic flavors of chemically produced sodas and candies, children will learn to appreciate the deliciousness of fresh ripe berries and tomatoes – impossible to find in many supermarkets. Rather than giving responsibility for our nourishment over to factory farms, we can teach our children our own abilities to nurture ourselves. We can maintain our own roles in sustaining our bodies instead of losing touch with our connection to food.
Basing our meals around the garden is a good curb against weight gain, too, while working outdoors provides exercise for healthy, growing bodies.
What greater pleasure than enjoying a feast of the organic harvest from your garden?
Be sure to incorporate garden goodies into your dinner menu whenever possible, serving each delicacy as soon as possible after picking to enjoy the greatest flavors and nutrients.
Save the seeds from your plants for next year so you’ll have continual wealth in the garden.
“The organic garden is nature’s classroom,” said James Steele. “Watching children not only participate in the growth of their own food but also learn the basics of nature’s interactions is so rewarding.”
Trish Riley is author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Living (Alpha Books, 2007).